US and China describe their discussions in Bangkok as “candid, substantive.”

China and the United States said on January 27 that top diplomat Wang Yi and U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan held “candid, substantive” talks in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, with the issue of Taiwan central after recent elections there.

Beijing and Washington have clashed in recent years on flashpoint issues from technology and trade to human rights, as well as over the self-ruled island and competing claims in the South China Sea.

Relations have somewhat stabilised since U.S. President Joe Biden met Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in San Francisco in November for talks that both sides described as a qualified success.

Mr. Wang and Mr. Sullivan “had candid, substantive and fruitful strategic communication on implementing the consensus reached at the San Francisco meeting… and on properly handling important and sensitive issues in China-U.S. relations”, a statement on China’s foreign ministry website released Saturday evening said.

The two sides will work to set up a call between Mr. Xi and Mr. Biden, the White House said in a statement released Saturday, as part of efforts to pursue “high-level diplomacy”.

Echoing the Chinese side’s description of the talks, the White House added that the meeting was “part of the effort to maintain open lines of communication and responsibly manage competition in the relationship” between the two countries.

The two powers have recently butted heads again over self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its territory, and where elections were held this month.

The Democratic Progressive Party, which rejects China’s claim to the island, secured a third term.

In the run-up to the poll, Chinese officials slammed president-elect Lai Ching-te as a dangerous separatist who would take Taiwan down the “evil path” of independence.

This week two U.S. lawmakers met Mr. Lai to reaffirm Washington’s support for Taiwan.

They are the second U.S. group to arrive since the election — the first was an unofficial delegation sent by Mr. Biden to congratulate Mr. Lai two days after the vote.

During the latest talks, Mr. Wang stressed that Taiwan was “China’s internal affair, and the regional election in Taiwan cannot change the basic reality that Taiwan is part of China”, according to the foreign ministry.

“The biggest risk to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is the so-called ‘Taiwan independence’ movement. The biggest challenge to China-U.S. relations is also the ‘Taiwan independence’ movement,” it added.

Mr. Sullivan “underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”, according to the White House, which did not elaborate further on the issue.

The two-day talks also addressed the topics of the Middle East, Ukraine, North Korea, the South China Sea and other international issues, both sides said.

They agreed to launch a joint working group on anti-drug cooperation, as well as set up an intergovernmental dialogue on artificial intelligence in the spring.

The two men “recognised recent progress in resuming military-to-military communication and noted the importance of maintaining these channels”, the White House said.